ST. PETE BEACH — After an all-you-can-eat chicken nugget promotion went viral, the owner of a local Chick-fil-A prepared to be flooded Friday.
Tony Menendez ordered 50,000 chicken nuggets. About 15 plastic tables sat in the restaurant's parking lot for overflow seating. He tripled his usual staff, calling in employees from neighboring Chick-fil-A restaurants. His wife and mother volunteered to help.
"We're all working tonight," he said before the event started. "We're ready to serve as many as we can."
He also hired two deputies for crowd and traffic control.
For all the social media hype — the event garnered hundreds of thousands of Facebook shares, tweets and Instagram posts, many from people who assumed it was a nationwide promotion — the restaurant on Gulf Boulevard stayed relatively calm.
The deal? Unlimited nuggets and waffle fries for $12.99 from 5 to 9 p.m. For kids under 12, it was $8.99.
People started to show up about an hour before the event. Management told patrons to line up right at 4:30 p.m., and doors opened 30 minutes later.
Employees handed out armbands and instructions. One of the most important rules: You had to eat all of your nuggets and waffle fries before coming back for more.
At one point, the line wrapped all the way around the restaurant.
Brendan Garrison, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, was first in line. Garrison came hungry.
"I didn't eat today," he said. "I just drank water."
Celeste Farmer, 22, and Todd Lauren, 23, an Australian couple on a road trip around the country, drove seven hours from Atlanta after hearing about the promotion.
Two hours in, Farmer and Lauren had eaten 75 nuggets.
Not everyone who came to the restaurant was there for the nugget feast. Angela Zakharey, 43, of St. Petersburg opted for the restaurant's drive-through and ordered food there.
She looked at the dozens of people standing in line outside of the restaurant.
"I'm not waiting," she said.
Greg Sines, 37, of Mercer, Pa., got more than his money's worth. At 6 feet 2 and 155 pounds, he managed to eat 80 nuggets and three orders of fries in an hour.
"I like to challenge myself to eat large amounts of food," he said. "You only live once."
Contact Ayana Stewart at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @AyanaStewart.